Corrections or additions?
Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on May 24, 2000. All rights reserved.
Sarnoff Spin-off: Princeton Lightwave
Hard on the heels of Orchid BioScience’s IPO, which
successfully braved a weak Nasdaq market, comes provocative news of
yet another Sarnoff spinoff that also has strong hopes for success.
This one, Princeton Lightwave Inc., sits squarely in the middle of
Sarnoff’s rich technology stockpile — optical communications.
Princeton Lightwave develops and makes high-powered optical components
that could help telecommunications carriers cut costs. From the second
largest global leading telecommunications equipment supplier, Nortel,
it has hired away a topnotch CEO, John Pittman. And its venture capitalist
investors have just put in $28 million in first-round financing. Incorporated
in late March, Princeton Lightwave is looking to expand beyond the
Sarnoff building and move to an office park at Exit 8A.
"I am very excited about joining Princeton Lightwave for many
reasons," says Pittman, who started at Princeton Lightwave on
Wednesday, May 17. He labels it "an outstanding organization with
world-class technology developed at one of the premier R&D laboratories
in optical communications."
Princeton Lightwave’s contributions to telecommunications’ cost-cutting
include high performance pump lasers and modules that can move light
signals more efficiently through fiber optic networks. Network carriers
that spent millions of dollars to lay a fibre optic line will use
this photonic technology to send more data at less cost.
"We are a components business," says Pittman, "and we
are aiming to sell to leading networking companies such as Cisco,
Nortel, and Lucent. Our plan is to build up the business and our customer
base. The whole market for fiber optics is doubling every year."
Consider that photonics is to electronics as light is to electric
current. To picture how this technology works, imagine a fiberoptics
line that carries bits of data on electrical light signals. Although
at the early stages of fiber optics technology, each fiber could carry
only one color, now one fiber can carry 160 colors, each color sending
a different kind of message. This greater capacity means lower cost
Princeton Lightwave’s particular technology involves creating specific
colors and the actual amplification of the well-defined colors of
light. "Each one of these colors goes into a fiber, each one carrying
a different data packet. At the other end, the colors are separated
out and the data is retrieved," says Pittman.
These signals weaken or "run out of steam," so to speak, and
every 80 to 100 kilometers they need to have their power amplified.
This is where Princeton Lightwave comes in. "Before they did this
with standard electronics," says Pittman. "Now we can supply
the lasers that networking companies will use to amplify (boost) the
signal so it can travel longer distances."
John Connolly, vice president of engineering and one of the company’s
founders, points out that to get Pittman signed up as CEO is a tremendous
coup and a strong endorsement of Princeton Lightwave’s technology:
"John Pittman’s leadership, his deep industry knowledge, and his
stature within the optoelectronics community will help immeasurably
in allowing Princeton Lightwave to quickly become a technology leader
and major supplier of optical components to the telecommunications
"There is an excitement in the marketplace," says Connolly,
a Rutgers alumnus, Class of 1977, who has a master’s degree from Polytechnic
Institute of New York. He had also worked on another Sarnoff spinoff,
Secure Products, which is based in Summit and does anticounterfeiting
technology for government and commercial applications, but these laser
pumps are his special area. In fact, his name is on one-fourth of
the more two dozen patents that have been filed for Princeton Lightwave.
What made him go with Princeton Lightwave, he says, that it is the
right technology at the right time: "This is a tremendous opportunity
to take Sarnoff technology and move it into the commercial marketplace."
Another endorsement is the support received from venture capitalists.
Gary Shaffer, a partner at Morgenthaler Ventures who focuses on communications
technologies, was very involved in an investment with a fiber-optic
component maker that went public last week and that is now getting
the credit for rekindling confidence in the IPO market. New Focus
Inc. made news with its Nasdaq IPO because it rose from $20 to $51
on Thursday, May 18, and held at $49 on May 19. In addition to San
Jose-based Morgenthaler Ventures (www.morgenthaler.com), venture
capitalists in the first round financing include Menlo Park-based
USVP (www.usvp.com), and Venrock Associates (www.venrock.com).
The search firm Heidrick & Struggles placed Pittman as CEO. Kristen
Callahan of Princeton Entrepreneurial Resources furnished an interim
controller, Ron Gravino. John Cinque (sank-you) of Buchanan Ingersoll
is the firm’s business attorney. Besides Connolly, Sarnoff-based founders
also include Pamela York, Dimitri Garbuzov, Nancy Morris, Ray Menna,
and Joe Abeles. York was director of strategic initiatives at Sarnoff
and is now acting vice president of marketing and corporate strategy.
Pittman grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, as one of four children; his
father was an aerospace engineer and his mother a teacher. A 1970
graduate of San Diego State, he did postgraduate work in material
sciences engineering, and then went to Officer Candidate School for
the U.S. Navy, stayed in the Reserves, and retired with the rank of
He and his wife have three grown sons, and they are
returning to live in the United States after 14 years in Canada and
the United Kingdom. His most recent job was in Devon, near Plymouth,
three hours by train southwest of London, but he had also worked for
Nortel in Ontario. "We quite enjoyed the UK and the work at Nortel
but this was a chance to broaden my horizons. I thought it was time
for a career change. I was already working in the dot-com world, and
I was very interested in working with a start-up company," says
His departure from Nortel (which trades as NT on the New York Stock
Exchange) has been termed "a blow" for that company, because
he was managing director of the $1 billion optoelectronics division.
This division had just announced a new fiber-optic components business
and had engineered plans for a $660 million investment in new optical
"I saw a good connection between Sarnoff and their research in
photonics and the research we may decide to contract with them to
do," says Pittman. "We are looking to recruit and hire locally
as much as possible to grow the business."
Sarnoff has been in the optoelectronics field for 30 years and was
one of the pioneers of diode laser technology in the ’60s and ’70s.
"A lot of the processes the industry uses today were developed
at Sarnoff," says Connolly, noting that Sarnoff’s expertise in
a number of related areas can be turned into solutions for Princeton
Central New Jersey is indeed one of the international centers of the
optoelectronic component industry, says James Sturm, director of the
Princeton University Center for Photonics and Optoelectronic Materials,
a collaboration between the state and the university that helps develop
the local infrastructure.
Many of these companies, Sturm says, trace their roots back not only
to RCA Labs, the forerunner of Sarnoff, but also to Bell Laboratories,
both in Holmdel and Murray Hill. He cites such rapidly growing companies
as Epitaxx, Sensors Unlimited, Princeton Optics, and PD/LD. "Corning
just invested invested in a fiberoptics lab in Somerset, Emcore is
in Somerset, and Anadigics is a very big company in Warren."
"Princeton Lightwave is in a very hot market," says Gregory
Olson, president Sensors Unlimited. Olson is a Sarnoff veteran who
also founded another optoelectronics company, Epitaxx (now owned by
JDS Uniphase on Graphics Drive in Trenton). Now Sensors Unlimited
leads the industry in monitoring the colors on the optical network
and — with 80 people at Princeton Service Center and $25 to $30
million in revenues — expects to more than double in this year.
"All optical companies are growing. John Connolly is one of the
most experienced guys in the industry, and those high power pump lasers
are a key component," says Olson. "If they can mass produce
them, they’ll do very well."
Auto travelers can be on the lookout for the harbingers of the fiberoptic
networks to come — small structures that are now under construction
in rural areas all over the country. It seems that Princeton Lightwave’s
signal-boosting pumps need to be physically located in a building.
In cities, they can be in existing buildings, but in the country,
this hardware must be housed in "photonic pumphouses,"
if you will. Says Pittman: "They are being built as we speak."
— Barbara Fox
Corporation, CN 5300, Princeton 08540. John D. Pittman, CEO. 609-734-2294.
Home page: www.princetonlightwave.com.
Boulevard, Suite 255, Ewing 55440-1101. Barry Zhang, director, optical
components development. 609-771-4370; fax, 609-771-9790. Joe Latore,
manufacturing manager. 609-671-2714; fax, 609-771-4371. Home page:
The fiber optics component firm moved to Phillips Boulevard and has
separate divisions for research and manufacturing. Formerly known
as Princeton Optics, it is a wholly owned division of ADC Telecommunications,
based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Barry Zhang, director of optical components development, has a master’s
degree in physics from Tsinghua University in Beijing and a PhD from
Princeton in mechanical and aerospace engineering.
Synthon could be a poster child for New Jersey’s attempts to position
itself as the Innovation Garden State. Founded by Rawle Hollingsorth,
a professor at Michigan State University, the company relocated last
winter from Michigan to New Jersey to get better access to its current
and potential clients.
Synthon is a fine chemicals and custom synthesis company that can
produce high purity chiral intermediates for the pharmaceutical and
The chirality of a molecule is important to drug development. Molecules
used to develop therapeutic drugs typically form in non-chiral, mirror
images of themselves. Each mirror image can react very differently
in the body. For example, one molecule may show a desired therapeutic
effect, but its mirror image may cause significant, undesirable side
Because the FDA requires that the efficacy and safety of each mirror
image must be proved before a drug can be marketed, drug development
companies must go through the costly process of developing batches
of chiral molecules. Synthon has technologies to simplify the process
and decrease the cost. It has shown it can do this in drugs for cholesterol
reduction, central nervous system disorders (anti-depressants), antibiotics,
muscle relaxants, and anti-virals.
It’s a big market. An estimated 60 to 70 percent of all drugs over
the next five years will be chiral, and the chiral chemicals market
for pharmaceuticals is expected to exceed $5 billion by 2003.
08852. Scott E. Coleridge, president & CEO. 732-274-0037; fax, 732-274-0501.
Home page: www.synthoncorp.com.
08540. Lee Bellarmino, managing director, Princeton. 609-987-0730;
fax, 609-987-0583. Home page: www.right.com.
Lee Bellarmino, formerly executive vice president and CEO of Peoples
Bancorp in Lawrenceville, has replaced Daniel Kowalski as managing
Bellarmino is a graduate of Rutgers and Stonier Graduate School of
Banking and started his career at CoreStates. He is also a certified
hospice worker, treasurer of the United Way of Ocean County, and a
trustee of the Trenton Roebling Community Development Corporation.
Right Management does outplacement, career management, and human resource
development, and comprehensive human resources management.
CN 828, Trenton 08625-0828. Stephen Sasala, executive director. 609-984-4924;
fax, 609-984-4920. Home page: www.innovationgarden.org.
In a story in the May 17 issue of U.S. 1, Prosperity New Jersey’s
public image campaign was incorrectly titled Innovation State. The
correct title is Innovation Garden State.
with offices at Princeton Meadows and on Klockner Road.
in the Hopewell Valley school district and at the Pennington School.
research engineer for David Sarnoff Research Center.
GMH Associates on Chelten Way in Trenton.
offices in Ewing.
Co. in Jamesburg.
Data, Clancy Paul, and the Academy of Professional Development.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.